Everybody’s Got Pain

As I’m writing this blog post, the anesthesia from my root canal is wearing off. Needless to say, I’m in pain. A lot of pain.

This made me think about how we deal with pain.

Sometimes, if it’s bad enough, we just curl up under the covers and will ourselves to sleep until it’s over. However, too many people never have the luxury of allowing their pain to crash over them and carry them out to sea. These people – and they are usually poor people – are told to just “push through it” and “you can’t stay home with every little ache and pain.”

The implication being that if you give into pain you are weak, you are unworthy, and you are definitely not getting paid for today if you do.

Consequently, that’s how I knew now was a perfect time to get this post written. And so here we are.

Is this a sign of dedication to my craft, my blog? Of strength of character? Or of brainwashing and stupidity?

Hard to say.

So instead of whining about my own pitiful problems today I thought I’d tell you a little bit about my main character, Jake’s, tattoos.

Jake has a large slamming door tattooed on his back. It’s there so he won’t forget the night his father left forever, his mother screaming “Good riddance” at the empty air.

There’s an old coffee pot covered with spider webs on his left shoulder. It’s to remind himself of all the times five year old Jake got up at 2:30 am just to make his dad a cup of coffee when he returned from the bar. 

 

 

The yellow license plate, dinged and bent at one corner, that sits below his rib cage belongs to the car that killed his mother as she was crossing Roosevelt Boulevard when he was six.

 

Yeah, everybody’s got pain.

How do you deal with your own pain? Do you dive in, or try to ride it out? Also, what kind of pain have you dished out to your characters? And how do they deal with it?

I’d love to hear about it in the Comments section.

Thanks for reading.

Timelines

Hi everyone.

I’m currently stuck on my novel’s timeline, so I thought I’d share a bit of that hellishness with anybody out there.

Obviously timelines are important in any story, but especially in long,  complicated stories such as in a novel. Not only do you need to know what is happening in your novel, you need to know when it’s happening.

And if you’re a visual person like me it is so much better to see the important events in your story laid out in front of you than to merely think about them.

That’s where timelines come in. You can:

  • make your own with pen and paper,
  • use a calendar, or
  • find a program online.

 

 

I have, in the past, tried making my own and found that my ideal timeline consists of one, long sheet of paper tacked to my living room walls — satisfying, but not very practical.

Calendars are probably a lot of fun to use, but all those little boxes feel confining to me. Don’t judge me.

I’ve recently come across an online option on writershelpingwriters.net. They have a resource called One Stop for Writers that includes a 2 week free trial of all these cool features like Character Builders, Story Maps, Scene Maps, and you guessed it — Timelines. So far I’m really liking it.

Just so you know — I’m not affiliated with this group at all. I just thought you all would like to check them out.

Anyway, back to playing with my timeline.

How about you guys? Do you find timelines useful, or just another excuse NOT to be writing?

Please let me know in the Comments.

Thanks for reading.

Terrible Strange: Behind the Scenes

Hi everyone.

Today I’m going to take you behind the scenes of my first novel, tentatively titled Terrible Strange. I started this and completed a rough first draft when I was in grad school a couple of years ago. However, there was so much wrong with it that I decided to put it away for a while – it just wasn’t speaking to me, you know?

Anyway, it did start speaking to me a few months ago so I set about rewriting it. I’ve changed the POV, made the characters older, took them out of high school and put them in grad school, got rid of the clichéd “angry dad” character, and did a LOT more digging into my protagonist’s backstory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have also left behind “pantsing” in favor of plotting.

I’m not gonna lie – it’s been a struggle to make such a big change to my writing process, but whenever you combine pantsing with ADD all you get is a hot mess that kinda looks like a story. At least, that’s been my experience.

 

 

 

 

So, I checked out a bunch of different plotting books – there are so many good ones – and loved two books in particular: Save the Cat Writes a Novel, by Jessica Brody and Story Genius, by Lisa Cron.

I was already familiar with Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat series from my screenwriting days, and Lisa Cron’s blueprint method of building a story that has both internal logic and a sense of urgency is brilliant. Plus, constantly asking yourself, and your characters, questions – as she recommends – really, really works. Who knew?

 

 

Anyway, despite my lack of productivity – God, how I wish I could regularly churn out 2,000 words a day like my OCD girl idols on YouTube – I have still managed to reach the midpoint in my novel. Yay!

How about you? Have you ever rewritten something from scratch because the story just wouldn’t let you go? No matter how hard you tried to leave it in the box of shame, or the folder of forgetfulness?

Please let me know in the Comment section.

Thanks for reading.

Writer’s Journal vs. Writer’s Notebook

Hi Everyone.

Today I want to talk about a topic that came up online recently — what is the difference between a Writer’s Journal and a Writer’s Notebook?

It’s all just a bunch of  OCD writers once again obsessing about stuff that doesn’t matter, you say? Oh, you are so wrong.

Not only does this stuff matter, it matters A LOT.

At least to us writer types.

Let me explain.

Writers’ Journals are kind of like specialized diaries. This is where you put all the writing that should probably never see the light of day.

For instance:

  • If you do daily writing prompts — this is where you put your responses to those prompts. Five ways to describe a dung beetle!
  • If you spend the first ten minutes of every writing day writing I don’t know what to write today. Do that here.
  • If you’re thrashing around, trying to nail down a difficult scene that’s not quite ready to be introduced to  the rest of your manuscript, this is a good place to do your thrashing.
  • If you need to get the boring, every day stuff off your chest before you can be creative, then unload that crap here.
  • If you sometimes find yourself compulsively writing Zarry or BTS fan fiction, because … well, just because — then this is a safe space for it.

Writers’ Notebooks, on the other hand, are where you get to live as a writer.

Here’s what goes in your notebook:

  • Your thoughts, feelings, ideas, opinions, observations, bits of overheard conversation
  • Pick a place, like a coffee shop, and move around the room listing the things you hear, smell, taste, wonder about — you can use these bits to flesh out a setting or a scene later on
  • It’s where you collect random — or not so random — ideas
  • Bits of poetry or song lyrics you like
  • Topics and themes that are important to you, or that you find yourself coming back to over and over again
  • Character sketches of strangers
  • Bits of dialogue — even if you don’t know who will be saying this dialogue yet
  • Doodles or sketches of people or places that intrigue you for some reason
  • Quotes from books or authors that turn you on
  • Words that you just frigging like the sound of
  • Lists of things
  • Whatever else you feel like including — as long as it’s personal

Believe it or not, all of this stuff is valuable. These are the tiny bits of grit and sand your writer’s mind will use to create pearls.

So get yourself a couple of blank notebooks and make one your Journal and the other one your Notebook. Add something to each of them every day.

You’ll be glad you did!

Do you have a separate writer’s journal and writer’s notebook? Let me know in the Comments section.

Thanks for reading!

Writers on Writing

Hi everyone.

I have recently collected some of my favorite quotes on writing from some people I admire. It’s always comforting to know that someone better than you has been “there” before — full of doubt, exhausted when the words don’t come, angry at one’s own clumsy ineptness — and  that they kept going anyway. Here’s a few of them.

“I don’t want just words. If that’s all you have for me, you’d better go.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” – Terry Pratchett

And … “The first draft of everything is shit.” — Ernest Hemingway

“You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.” ― Octavia E. Butler

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is … the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” – Mark Twain

“Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style.” — Stephen King

And most important …

“Write what should not be forgotten.” — Isabel Allende

 

That’s it for today. Let me know what some of your favorite quotes about writing are in the Comment section.

Thanks for reading.

 

Close Encounters of the Fangirl Kind

Being a fangirl is to live a life full of extremes.

To paraphrase Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities — it can be the best of times and the worst of times… depending on what’s currently going on in your celebrity’s life. (Ugh. PR relationships and fake baby rumors anyone?)

Today I want to talk about a different kind of celebrity fangirling … a higher level of fangirling that focuses on an appreciation of creators and their creations. (Huh. Sounds so lofty, don’t it?)

Yeah, today I want to talk about some of the authors I’ve met, or sort of met, or could have met if I had only said something… Sigh. So in no particular order, here goes …

Ray Bradbury.  He was scheduled to give a talk during some 48 hour movie marathon being held on a college campus in Camden, NJ — one of the worst, most crime-ridden cities in America — at night. There might have been 40-50 people in the audience that night, and he did answer questions, as I recall. Of course, I was too thrilled — and too intimidated — to say anything to him, but damnit, I COULD have, so I’m counting it.  Besides almost meeting Ray f*cking Bradbury that night, the one other thing I remember was when I asked some nice African American gentlemen for directions to the school, one of them said, “Girl, are you lost?”

Stephen King. In contrast to my Bradbury “encounter”, this is more of an unconfirmed sighting, if I’m being honest, but hear me out.   I was standing at a bus stop on Roosevelt Boulevard (aka US Route 1) one afternoon, waiting on a bus.  Now when you “wait on” a bus, you don’t just stand there staring straight ahead. You stand on the the very edge of the sidewalk, and stare up the road the bus is going to be coming down… so you can get the first, possible glimpse of the bus way before it actually reaches your stop.  So there I am, following bus-waiting protocol, when I spot this tiny foreign car (at least I think it was a foreign car, but hell, what did I know? I was taking the frigging bus!) barreling down Route 1 in the right-hand lane. Inside the car was this big guy all hunched over the steering wheel, looking all tense, but determined. (Driving on Roosevelt Blvd./Rt. 1 has that effect on people, believe me.) My first – and last – thought was “That’s Stephen King!” as he flew by me less than six feet away. Don’t fight me.

 

 

 

 

Clive Barker. I think I actually took the day off to go to a book signing of his. I even made my girlfriend, Mary, use her precious lunch hour to accompany me to this book signing of someone she didn’t even know. Thank God she did, because otherwise I would have been hauled off by his security guy for being a drooling idiot. Don’t ask me when this was, or what book I gave him to sign, or whether I actually said anything to him – I just remember standing there with my mouth open while Clive and Mary had a nice, little chat about fans, and his handwriting looking like a doctor’s, and who the hell knows what else? It’s all a big, embarrassing BLUR. And I am totally counting that as “meeting Clive Barker”, so there.

 

 

 

 

Laurel K. Hamilton. This was at a science fiction convention in St. Louis. I attended a panel she was on, and afterwards, ended up in the same restroom… at the same time. Not wanting to bother her (while simultaneously letting her know I recognized her, but was being cool about it), I nodded at her in the mirror above the sinks. And, yes I’m counting it.

 

 

 

 

Have you met any of your favorite authors? Were they triumphs of fangirling? Or tragedies like mine?

Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading.

 

Binge-watching Netflix — It’s strictly research, I swear.

Well, here we are living out all our old “if I only didn’t have to work” fantasies.  (Except maybe for the one where you get naked and belly flop into a pool of lime jello.)

 

 

 

So, in between taking naps and trying not to eat everything in the house, my husband and I have been binge-watching TV shows on Netflix. But unlike the rest of America we are doing it for a higher purpose — we’re both writers so we’re calling it “research”. 

Yeah, I said what I said.

Right now we’re researching the hell out of “Supernatural” — already on Season 3. Woo-hoo! Great cast, great writing, and according to Dean in Season 2, Episode 18 — great craft services.

 

 

 

Also, sadly, we’re finishing up “The Magicians” later tonight. LOVE this show, especially Quentin, Eliot, and Margo the Destroyer. Maybe we can get a GoFundMe site started to finance another season (or 10) just to frigging bring back Quentin (and, by extension, one of the hottest ships on TV — Queliot!). C’mon, you guys — it’s a magical world. Anything can happen!

And, last but not least — “Lucifer.” He is my favorite drama queen. My husband and I are both loving Lucy’s character arc, but it’s hard waiting for the most recent season to make it onto Netflix. Ugh. I want it nooooooowwwww!

So, how dare we call what appears to be a hedonistic waste of time “research”? Hey, when you write everything is research.

Three week trips to exotic places just to get “local flavor” for your next book  ? Research.

 

 

 

 

Eavesdropping on people in public places (ah, the good old days) simply to hear authentic idiot conversations? Research.

eavesdropping

Watching 72 hours of shoe fetish porn just to give one of your characters a “secret obsession”? Research.

Let me know what you’re binge-watching in the Comments.

Thanks for reading!